No romance without finance, so it has been sung for years on end, and Okong’o Oduya, a 33-year-old radio presenter at Mukwano FM has learned this the hard way. His wife would make sure he left home a happy man and made sure he retired a happier man. Little did he know his joy would not last long.
“My first marriage ended five years ago when I lost my job. According to her I wasn’t bringing enough to the table, even in my hustle. The little I could manage was nothing to her. At that time, she was making more money than me. The marriage turned very toxic at some point and it wasn’t healthy for both of us. I believed she opted out because she couldn’t handle being with a man who doesn’t level up to her. She opted to walk out and she’s never come back," Okong'o said in a recent interview with Eve. "At that time I was living in Nairobi's Makadara estate. I moved out of Nairobi to Busia to start afresh."
"Of course going through such a thing is not easy. But I believe money should not determine relationships. Many marriages break because of financial matters. Women have become money minded that it’s hard to maintain relationships these days. I think people should have an understanding of each other. There is no harm in making more money than your spouse. You might be in different careers which do not guarantee equal pay but when you sit down as a couple and understand each other, there shouldn’t be a problem managing your finances. Although I am now happily married I learnt some lessons the hard way,” said Okong'o.
There may not be any statistics to show how many relationships have ended because of misunderstandings brought about by similar situations but research shows that more Kenyan women are earning more than their male counterparts.
According to a report by Consumer Insight, more Kenyan women are earning higher salaries than Kenyan men with 39 per cent of Kenyan women earning a personal income compared to 32 per cent of men. This is in contrast to Nigeria and South Africa, where the numbers are 44 to 45 per cent.
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) in a 2016 report, stated that Kenyan women account for 82 per cent of total savings in the country and the number of transactions associated with women’s banks account being at 58 percent.
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CBK Governor Patrick Njoroge attributed this to the success in the use of mobile money, which provides women and their families distinct reason to own and use a mobile phone adding that the country has a relatively small gender gap of about seven per cent.
In the past, society assumed that if a woman is making a lot of money, a man is financing her. However, in recent years, women have risen above the popular norm of being the lesser people into a period where they have assumed big positions in society and work places. Gone are days when women were confined to the kitchen and bedroom while men assumed all the big roles in families and society.
This issue however raises the money question in relationships and marriages. Who between the man and woman should be making more money and why?
Today, many marriages seem to break even before the ink on marriage certificates dry up. One of the major reasons attributed to the rising rate of divorce is money.
Men vs women
Contrary to Okong'o's account, men have been accused of getting jealous when their wives or girlfriends start making more money.
Women claim that men feel intimidated and belittled by women who are financially empowered. Many a times women have spoken of their relationships changing when they get financially empowered.
Peris Francis, a 25-year-old accountant and research analyst believes this is the root of conflict in relationships where the woman is financially independent.
“They are intimidated by financially empowered women. Most of them are like the older men who still believe women belong in the kitchen and bedroom. They don’t want women to be able to get anything they want for themselves. They want to continue the culture of women borrowing money from them every now and then, something which clearly massages their egos," Peris says adding that men will use all manner of tactics to level the ground.
"I once lent Sh40,000 to a guy I was dating. I was still a university student so this was money I had put aside to pay my exam fees. I trusted him enough that I risked missing my exams so that I could help him," Peris narrates.
"But when the time came for him to pay me back the money it became an issue. He always gave flimsy excuses saying he had not been paid, or his bank account had issues, or his bank was having transaction problems. I went as far as calling his bank to ask if they have transaction problems and they said it was not true. He would go on trips abroad yet he still claimed he didn’t have the money to pay me back. I was frustrated. I had to start a business of selling handbags to raise the money before my exams started. He paid back almost a year later after frustrating me."
Peris believes money conflicts are behind many breakups. "Money plays a huge role in relationships especially in current times. Many relationships fail because either the man is not financing the woman they way she wants and she leaves and gets herself a sponsor or the woman is making more money and she cannot stand the idea of a man who can’t keep up,” she says.
Winnie Kamau, a data journalist and founder of Association of Freelance Journalists says money is a major problem in many relationships these days because many people are living in a world of comparison and trying to be better off than their friends and peers and this has been aggregated by social media.
“It is not easy for men especially because they have egos and they are sensitive. But it also takes a sensitive woman to understand that the role of a man in a relationship is to provide, protect and profess. On the issue of who should earn more, it’s a bit rudimentary but if the woman earns more than the man, she needs to give the man the role of apportioning the money for the family. Money becomes a big problem when the woman forgets the role of the husband,” Winnie says.